Ali-Ai-Ligang is the spring festival of the Mising (descended from the Astro-Mongoloids). Originally a hill tribe from Tibet and Mongolia, they travelled from Manasa Sarovar, the highest freshwater lake in the world and settled in Arunachal Pradesh and the plains of Assam in around the 8th century.
Ali-Ai-Ligang is the most colourful festival and occurs every year on the first Wednesday of the month of Ginmur Polo (February-March) in the Mising calendar. It is held to appease mother earth and the fore-fathers of the Mising and to mark the new sowing season. Ali means root or seed and ai means fruit and ligangmeans sow and the heads of families ceremonially sow paddy in a corner of their respective rice fields in the morning hours and pray for a good crop during the year as well as for general abundance and well-being on this day.
The festival continues for five days and on the fourth day there are taboos regarding cutting trees, fishing, ploughing and burning jungle that must be strictly observed and the Mising take complete rest that day. Dancing and singing is a big feature of this festival when the young boys and girls don traditional costumes. They dance Gumrag Pakes Cha Nam, characterised by brisk stepping, flinging and flapping of hands and swaying of hips to indicate youthful passion, reproductive urge and general gaiety which is accompanied by drums, pipes, flutes, cymbals and gongs. The gong is only ever played at Ali-Ai-Ligang and the drums have a special beat for the Gumrag dance.
The formal dance of the festival starts on the courtyard of the easternmost house in the village. The performers dance in circles on the courtyards of every house in the village and in return the host rewards the dancers with rice beer, chicken and even on some occasions cash. The dancers often move outside into the fields.
The songs sung at Ali-Ai-Ligang are not confined to the songs of youth alone. Their themes are vast and varied and include the life of man, his sufferings and death. However there is focus on the joy and sorrow of love.
The last day of the festival is called lilen and is celebrated with Dapan Tipan, a huge community village feast that includes pork and dried fish and at which poro apong or rice beer is drunk.